Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Far Away Galaxy Under The Microscope

17.08.2006
SINFONI Discovers Rapidly Forming, Large Proto-Disc Galaxies Three Billion Years After The Big Bang

An international group of astronomers have discovered large disc galaxies akin to our Milky Way that must have formed on a rapid time scale, only 3 billion years after the Big Bang. In one of these systems, the combination of adaptive optics techniques with the new SINFONI spectrograph on ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) resulted in a record-breaking resolution of a mere 0.15 arcsecond, giving an unprecedented detailed view of the anatomy of such a distant proto-disc galaxy.

“We have been able, for the first time, to obtain well resolved, two dimensional images of the gas motions in distant star forming galaxies, whose light has traveled more than 11 billion years to the Earth,” said Reinhard Genzel, lead author of a paper in this week’s issue of Nature in which these results are presented.

This tells the story how galaxies looked like a mere 3 billion years after the Big Bang.

Over the past decade astronomers have established a global framework of how galaxies formed and evolved when the Universe was only a few billion years old. Gas of ordinary matter cooled and collected in concentrations of the mysterious ‘dark’ matter (so called dark matter halos). Since that time and up to the present epoch collisions and mergers of galaxies subsequently led to the hierarchical build-up of galaxy mass. This general picture leaves open, however, on what timescales galaxies were assembled and when and how bulges and discs, the primary components of present day galaxies, were formed.

A major study of distant, luminous star forming galaxies at ESO’s VLT, the ‘SINS’ (Spectroscopic Imaging Survey in the Near-Infrared with SINFONI) survey, has now resulted in a major break-through on these questions. This study exploited SINFONI [1], a novel infrared ‘integral field spectrometer’ that simultaneously delivers sharp images, with adaptive optics, and highly resolved colour information (spectra) of an object on the sky.

In the case of the galaxy BzK155043 at cosmological redshift 2.4, the SINFONI observations achieved an angular resolution of 0.15”, a mere 4000 light years at the distance of this high redshift galaxy. With this superior angular resolution the data reveal the physical and dynamical properties in unprecedented detail. Surprisingly the observations reveal a large and massive rotating proto-disc that is channeling gas toward a growing central stellar bulge. The high gas surface densities, the large star formation rate and the moderately young stellar ages derived from these observations suggest that the system was assembled rapidly, by fragmentation and star formation in an initially very gas rich proto-disc. SINS observations of several other massive, high redshift galaxies give similar results.

“When we started the SINS programme,” said Genzel, “we expected to see mostly irregular and perhaps even chaotic motions caused by the frequent merger activity in the young Universe. We were in for a major surprise when we found a number of large, rotating and gas rich disc galaxies whose properties are quite similar to the present day Milky Way”.

The fact that these galaxies are so large and rotate rapidly indicates that the gas has a similar amount of rotation as the dark matter halo from which it cooled, thus empirically solving an important question of galaxy formation.

Natascha Förster Schreiber, lead author of another recent SINS paper in the Astrophysical Journal said: “We now need to understand how these early proto-discs evolved subsequently in time. Our suspicion is that they might not have been stable.”

The SINFONI data suggest that the proto-discs may have eventually been transformed to dense elliptical galaxies, either by internal processes, such as the spectacular gas inflows observed in BzK15504, or by collisions and mergers with other galaxies, which were frequent in the dense environments in which the high redshift luminous star forming galaxies appear to reside in.

Another important aspect of the work are the very high star formation rates deduced for many of the luminous star forming high redshift galaxies, about one hundred times greater than in the present-day Milky Way.

“We have a growing body of evidence that massive galaxies formed much more rapidly in the redshift range 2-3 than originally anticipated,” said Andrea Cimatti, team member from the University of Bologna. “The new SINFONI data give us a first glimpse what processes might be involved.”

The SINS programme on the VLT is a stunning demonstration of what is going to be possible in the next few years with the combination of integral field spectroscopy and adaptive optics.

Henri Boffin | alfa
Further information:
http://www.eso.org/outreach/press-rel/pr-2006/pr-31-06.html

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht First direct observation and measurement of ultra-fast moving vortices in superconductors
20.07.2017 | The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

nachricht Manipulating Electron Spins Without Loss of Information
19.07.2017 | Universität Basel

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Manipulating Electron Spins Without Loss of Information

Physicists have developed a new technique that uses electrical voltages to control the electron spin on a chip. The newly-developed method provides protection from spin decay, meaning that the contained information can be maintained and transmitted over comparatively large distances, as has been demonstrated by a team from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute. The results have been published in Physical Review X.

For several years, researchers have been trying to use the spin of an electron to store and transmit information. The spin of each electron is always coupled...

Im Focus: The proton precisely weighted

What is the mass of a proton? Scientists from Germany and Japan successfully did an important step towards the most exact knowledge of this fundamental constant. By means of precision measurements on a single proton, they could improve the precision by a factor of three and also correct the existing value.

To determine the mass of a single proton still more accurate – a group of physicists led by Klaus Blaum and Sven Sturm of the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear...

Im Focus: On the way to a biological alternative

A bacterial enzyme enables reactions that open up alternatives to key industrial chemical processes

The research team of Prof. Dr. Oliver Einsle at the University of Freiburg's Institute of Biochemistry has long been exploring the functioning of nitrogenase....

Im Focus: The 1 trillion tonne iceberg

Larsen C Ice Shelf rift finally breaks through

A one trillion tonne iceberg - one of the biggest ever recorded -- has calved away from the Larsen C Ice Shelf in Antarctica, after a rift in the ice,...

Im Focus: Laser-cooled ions contribute to better understanding of friction

Physics supports biology: Researchers from PTB have developed a model system to investigate friction phenomena with atomic precision

Friction: what you want from car brakes, otherwise rather a nuisance. In any case, it is useful to know as precisely as possible how friction phenomena arise –...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

»We are bringing Additive Manufacturing to SMEs«

19.07.2017 | Event News

The technology with a feel for feelings

12.07.2017 | Event News

Leipzig HTP-Forum discusses "hydrothermal processes" as a key technology for a biobased economy

12.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Researchers create new technique for manipulating polarization of terahertz radiation

20.07.2017 | Information Technology

High-tech sensing illuminates concrete stress testing

20.07.2017 | Materials Sciences

First direct observation and measurement of ultra-fast moving vortices in superconductors

20.07.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>